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Pope Francis' peace gesture after the Brussels attacks

By AP Reporters

Pope Francis has washed and kissed the feet of Muslim, Orthodox, Hindu and Catholic refugees, declaring them children of the same God, in a gesture of welcome and brotherhood following the Brussels attacks.

Francis called the carnage a “gesture of war” by people beholden to the weapons industry at an Easter Week Mass with asylum-seekers at the shelter in Castelnuovo di Porto, outside Rome.

The Holy Thursday rite re-enacts the foot-washing ritual Jesus performed on his apostles before being crucified, and is meant as a gesture of service.

Francis contrasted that gesture with the “gesture of destruction” which was carried out by the Brussels attackers, saying they wanted to destroy the brotherhood of humanity represented by the migrants.

“We have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and we want to live in peace,” Francis said in his homily, delivered off-the-cuff in the windy courtyard of the centre.

Several of the migrants then wept as Francis knelt before them, poured holy water from a brass pitcher over their feet, wiped them clean and kissed them.

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